HOLY WEEK SATURDAY
The first allusion of the rite of the Holy Saturday is the description of Egeria: “Those who are able to keep the vigil do so until the dawn. . . . The clergy keep watch there, and hymns and antiphons are sung there through all the night until the morning.” It is mentioned in the canons of Christodoulus (11th century): “And the Liturgy [Quddas] of Holy Saturday the diptych and the absolution are included, but the kiss of peace is omitted.” Ibn Kabar (14th century), in his encyclopedia The Lamp of Darkness for the Explanation of the Service, gives a similar description of the rite of the Holy Saturday (or the Saturday of Joy):
the altar is covered with white veils and prayers commence with the offering up of incense. Psalm 50 and the Doxology of Matins is prayed, followed by the Prayer for the Departed, the Psalis, the Theotokia and Saturday lobsh, the hymn of the angels and the doxologies. The creed is recited followed by three “Lord have mercy” chanted in the long, great tune, while the procession of deacons proceeds around the church. A reading from a Pauline epistle (said in sorrowful and annual tunes) takes place, followed by the chanting of the trisagion, a psalm and the gospel reading. Prayers conclude with the absolutions and the final canon. Prayer of the Third and Sixth hours then commence.
In the monasteries, the monks begin by praying psalms from the Horologion [agbia, or the Book of Hours], while the people of Upper Egypt read the prophecies and the gospels of previous hours of the Holy Week. As people assemble in the church, seven lamps are lit and seven censers are prepared, after which the Apocalypse is read. Incense is offered, and relevant hymns are sung. After the conclusion of the Ninth Hour prayer, the priest celebrates the liturgy without reciting the Prayer of Reconciliation.
Yuhanna ibn Abi Zakariyya ibn Sabba‘ provides a similar description with the addition of praying Psalm 50 and chanting the Hymn of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace.
Maqrizi described the Saturday of Joy as follows: “This feast is the day before the Passover, and they [the Christians] pretend that the light is coming out of the tomb of Christ in the Church of Resurrection in Jerusalem [al-Qods] during which they would light the lanterns of the Church. But after investigation by some trusted people, it was concluded that this is a Christian invention.”
It is important to mention that most of the edited books and even the manuscripts mention a commentary for the Saturday of Joy that is not relevant to the event (even at the time of Ibn Kabar). It was J. Muyser who discovered the original commentary.